Sunday, 14 November 2010

Centrefold Venus of the Month 17: Chaonia, October 1974

Slightly late, as we are still catching up following our recent travels, is our October centrefold.  This pictorial is from Club international's October 1974 issue. 

The lady goes under the name of Chaonia which is certainly one of the more unusual aliases!   The text is all sorts of nonsense about her supposed background from Greece and Asia.  Whatever, she is an interestingly slightly ethnic sort of girl of just the type that Agent Triple P appreciates.

Thes pictures were taken by the then largely unknown Bob Carlos Clarke.  Robert Carlos Clarke (1950-2006) was born in County Cork the son of a retired major.  He studied at a number of public schools, including Wellington College.  After school he worked in journalism fro a time before studying design at Worthing College of Art in Sussex where he once said that he took up photography to get to know a girl in the year above him who did some part time modelling.  This obviously worked as she became his first wife.

Having taken up photography in his first year at Worthing he then did a full degree in the subject at the London College of Printing and went on to do his  MA  at the Royal College of Art in 1975. Whilst studying, to supplement his income, he started to submit pictures for magazines like Men Only and Club International such as this pictorial which was done when he was 24.

While he was at college a friend introduced him to the concept of rubber-wear and he became well known for his fetish themed pictures; something that later in his career he found had pigeon-holed him somewhat.  He was a pioneer of this sort of photography and was somewhat dismayed when it became a rather downmarket cliche.

From early on he became an obsessive printmaker, eventually becoming one the world's greatest exponents of the craft.  His views on erotica were quite clear. “Fashion,” he said “poses a far greater threat to modern woman than pornography, with its wild demands that she conform to that freakish body shape. Helmut Newton's work and my own accept the imperfections of women's bodies. We want to show women as they are."  He preferred to work with unknown girls rather than established models and would approach them in the street or in nightclubs.  Other than his striking and inventive erotic work he also did commercial work and portraits.  For his own pleasure he concentrated on still life studies of objects such as rocks and cutlery.

During the eighties he was one of the most successful photographer in Britain but work started to dry up in the nineties as magazine editors looked for new names.  In the end he had to resort to submitting work under an alias.  After he published his autobiographical book Shooting Sex in 2003 his depression, which had always been an issue got worse.  He was very effected by the death of his friend Patrick Lichfield at the end of 2005.  In early 2006 he was being treated for clinical depression but despite appearing to respond to treatment he committed suicide by jumping in front of a train at Barnes in west London.  In his 2003 book he had written:  "For the purposes of deification, an early and appropriate death is essential. If you want to qualify as a legend, get famous young, die tragically and dramatically, and never underestimate the importance of your unrepeatable, irreplaceable, iconic photographs."

Bob Carlos Clark photographed by his daughter

Now his work is much sought after by collectors and several of his portraits have appeared in the National Portrait Gallery; something that never happened to him during his lifetime.  In the end a number of things became too much for him; his own age (he was 55 when he died) whilst his models became younger and younger than him (he had numerous affairs with his models), his hatred for the pernicious spread of digital photography and its lack of craft and, in his own eyes, the lack of respect for his work from the photographic establishment; something he knew was partly because of his fame for taking erotic pictures of beautiful women.

These early student years pictures give very little hint of the craftsman and creator of iconic images he would later become but, of all of them, the one above, perhaps, demonstrates the sort of powerful erotic charge which many of his later images shared.

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